Wildwood Trail Marathon Race Review– Wildwood MO

I ran the Wildwood Trail Marathon in Wildwood MO on Sunday.  It was my 47th marathon (or longer).  I’m a runner who loves to run.  I love the trails and the serenity.  However, I’m not a real trail runner.  Let’s not squabble over the fact that “if I run trails, then I’m a trail runner”.  You know what I mean.  I’m a road runner.  I enjoy the road under my feet.  A solid surface that does not move.  One where I probably won’t trip over something that I can’t see because its covered by a forest of leaves.  One where sharp rocks don’t jut out at every step.  One where if I fall, I won’t stress about sliding down the bluff in the process.  Road runner.  Yep, that’s me. 

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Now that is has been clarified that I’m a road runner, my report follows. 

The Wildwood Trail marathon is self described as scenic & fast.  Good for road and trail runners, experienced and beginners alike. I’ve ran a lot of road races, plus my fair share of trail races.  So I feel well versed and able to give a realistic point of view.  Scenic, yes, in spots.  It’s a beautiful run thru the woods.  This race, unlike others I have ran, consisted of a lot of rock based trails.  Most trail runs are on dirt trails.  Wildwood has a lot of rock.  Not to make this too simple but the bluffs are made of rock.   The dirt wears away & only rock is left in spots.  Second pic below shows it well.  That looks like a well worn dirt trail, right?  No.  Its solid rock.  Somewhat smooth surface in some spots.  Jagged rocks sticking out in other spots.  Pics below are from the Bluff View Trail.

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The race started at a school, right off the Hamilton-Carr paved trail.  Then we hit a crushed stone & dirt type trail called the Al Foster Memorial Trail.  This lead us to the first detour, the Bluff View Trail which was about 2 miles into the race.  That’s where things started to get interesting.  The trail (seen above) was 2.5 miles of single track, some slanted to one side or the other, winding up the Bluff for an awesome lookout.  The Bluff View Trail provided some of the most scenic views of the day to the Crescent Valley below.

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After climbing the Bluff Trail, we made a small loop & returned the same way we went up. I must say that after staring at the course map for days, I really didn’t understand it.  But thankfully, the race was marked very well and there was never a question as to where we were headed.  Course map below.  One note, it would have been super helpful if the course map had mile markers.  For those of us unfamiliar with the area, we never really knew where we were at any given moment.  I had the map in my head but as you are climbing, climbing, climbing and maneuvering the switchbacks, everything is very focused.  It would have been great to know that I just had to manage the climb/terrain until mile x, then I would get some relief. 

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December can be tricky but we had a beautiful day with the sun shining on us.  Made me happy.

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Dry trails.  Leaves cushioning the rock.  And a few breathtaking views.  After the Bluff Trail, we hit the Rock Hollow Trail with the infamous Zombie Heights.  This was by far the toughest section (on the map it’s the tall section of zig zags, middle of the map) and I was zombie like, just watching the ground and trying to navigate the terrain.  Rock, switchbacks, lots of technical sections, all on a single track of rock and/or dirt.  We spent a lot of time hiking in this section for safety reasons.  My legs felt good but I can only go as fast as I feel safe.  I’m not a super coordinated person.  I’m not exactly clumsy but I do try to be careful.  So we saw a lot of 20  minute miles in this section.  Took forever to get thru it.  This was approximately mile 6 through 14.  Pics below of this section show the varied terrain.

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After Rock Hollow and Zombie Heights, we had a nice flat section back on the Al Foster Memorial Trail heading to Sherman Beach.  Easy terrain.  Well packed.  Fast section. 

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Sherman Beach was a hot spot.  By the time we got there, a lot were already headed back to the finish.  Lucky them.  But this was an important area.  First, the only port-o-potty on course was here. It was also the 3rd & 4th aid station.  And this is where the cut-off happened.  Once passing thru the Sherman Beach aid station (mile 15.5ish), there was a 7.5 mile loop.  We had to be back to that aid station by 2:30pm or we wouldn’t be allowed to finish.  Technically we had plenty of time.  But if we ran into a section of 20 min miles, then the cutoff was in jeopardy.  I must say this is the first time I ever really thought about a cutoff (in any race) and it was stressful! 

Leaving Sherman Beach we had a short section of flat, well groomed trails.  Then we hit the tunnels.  Concrete, manmade tunnels.  I had to bend over and walk thru them, they were short in height and long in length.  A volunteer on a bike told us that he would see us in 2 miles, once we hit the tunnels.  Must say this might have been the longest 2 miles of my life.  The tunnels lead to the Cedar Bluff Trail.  Obviously a short 2 mile jaunt.  Not as technical as the Zombie Heights but we had to be on our toes. And we were apparently rushing because of the cutoff.  Both my run partner & myself fell in this section.  Hard.  Blood & bruises the result. 

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Once we were back to the tunnels, things got much better.  We hit a network of trails by the Meramec River.  These trails consisted of dirt & sand.  Well groomed.  Lots of people riding bikes, walking dogs & hanging out.

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And then eventually the Stinging Nettle trail which was a sand trail taking us back to the 4th aid station at Sherman Beach.  Well AHEAD of the cutoff.  Smile   Tamyra below on the Stinging Nettle trail.

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After Sherman Beach, there was an easy, flat run back to the finish on the Al Foster & Hamilton Carr trails.  Photographer caught us in this section.  Yep, I’m dirty.  I fell down somewhere along Cedar Bluff.

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This marathon was approximately 25.77 miles.  If you are a 50 States Marathon Club runner who is trying to run all the states, don’t use this one for Missouri or you’ll be short & it won’t count.  Trail runs are always questionable in distance since you go where the terrain takes you.  Very normal. 

So, was this race scenic & fast?  Yes. Obviously scenic.  But its also one of the faster trail marathons that I’ve ran thanks to several flat sections where you can run faster.  Good for beginners & experienced runners alike?  Maybe.  The flat sections help a lot.  But there was a lot of technical spots too.  Anyone can do it.  But they really have to be invested in it.  So yes, good for anyone as long as they are committed & ready to go the distance no matter what the trails present.

Overall, great race.  Great volunteers.  Only 4 aid stations.  Stocked with trail running basics:  Coca Cola, Ginger Ale, peanut M&Ms, cookies, pretzels, oranges, pickles, electrolytes, Hammer gels.  Water & Heed (a Hammer product).   This was a cup free event so everyone needed a handheld, water bottles or collapsible cups to utilize the fluids on course. 

Small event.  I had read before race day that there were 209 entrants.  Not exactly how the results panned out.  I’m not sure if everyone was listed but they show 89 finishers.  I was #81 (6 hrs 30 min).   3 DNFs.  8 DNS. Winning male:  2:52.  Winning female:  3:44.  So it was apparently a fast race for some.  Smile Cutoff was 8 hours.  Last finisher was 7 hrs 51 min.

SWAG:  Beanie, Hammer gels, Hammer Endurolytes, sample pack of Biofreeze, finishers medal & FREE race photos.

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That’s a wrap on this marathon!  If your interested in trail running, I’ll link to some of my other trail runs below.  The hardest I’ve done so far is the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon in Duluth, MN.  That race is the warm up for the Minnesota Voyageur 50 miler.  God help those 50 milers.  They are tougher than me!  My second hardest trail marathon was the Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Trail Marathon in Baraboo, WI.  Easiest trail run/ultra was the Lakefront 50K in Chicago.  If you  need a fast 50K time, go to Chicago.  Race is on a paved path along Lake MI.  Fun.  Easy. 

Trail Race Reviews (minus the 2014 Huff 50K, which apparently I didn’t write up?!?):

Next up the 2017 Huff 50K on 12/30.  Then I rest. 

Happy Running, all!  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake Marathon

 

I can’t say that I really had time to tromp off to nowhere Baraboo, WI to run a marathon. Realistically, I don’t even have time to write this post but sometimes you just gotta do, what you gotta do!  🙂 So last FRI, I packed it up and headed 3.5 hours north into WI to run the Dances With Dirt – Devil’s Lake trail marathon. I hadn’t read much of the website other than details on registration and where to stay. I “picked” the race because I wanted to knock Wisconsin off the list {as part of my long-term goal of running a marathon in all 50 states} and I specifically wanted to do Wisconsin prior to moving further away. There aren’t a ton of marathons in WI right now and well, Devil’s Lake was the only one on my “partially free” weekend. Therefore, I didn’t pick Devil’s Lake, it picked ME. There you have it.  That was the process of picking my WI race and pretty much how I live my life “married with children“.

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Eventually info did start trickling down to me that I was in for a race of my life but I didn’t really pay too much attention because I didn’t have any too many other options.  Let it suffice to say that I was prepared to “suck it up” and knock WI off the list!  Let’s do this, right?!?!?!?

Thankfully registration was quick and easy, on site the morning of the race since I had previously missed online registration. Multiple distances options were available from 10K to 50 miles. Plenty of clean port-o-potties on site. Well organized event with a few freebies from the sponsors. Julie, myself & Dawn at the start.

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We didn’t even run a mile before reality started to set in and we were climbing up, up, up.  On single track.  And we were walking.  Not running.

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What started out as a jaunt thru the woods quickly became a serious endurance event. It was much more difficult to climb at a walking pace than run at marathon pace. Granted I am currently out of shape. I’m also above my normal weight by a solid 20 lbs. So I didn’t expect a walk in the park but even if I had read the website, I wouldn’t have ever guessed this event would be so challenging. We climbed up. We ran or walked down depending on how technical the section of the trail. We picked our way thru large boulder fields. We navigated stairs. We followed a paved path at the top of the mountain that we couldn’t believe existed. We saw Devil’s Lake from a bird’s prospective. And then we headed down, passing people who came to Devil’s Lake to climb and repel with legit climbing equipment. Julie and I were in our normal running shoes, just taking everything as it came. Step by step. My trail shoes are packed away in a box and her’s are so old they wouldn’t have helped much anyhow.  So there were no trail shoes for the two of us!  We just kept moving, at whatever pace we could manage. One of our miles “up top” took 38 minutes. Yes, that’s 38 minutes for ONE mile. But the views were breathtaking and it was worth it.  Seriously worth it.  Look at these amazing photos.

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I wanted to squeeze in a report for this event because I know that other people actually research races before jumping in the car to check off another state.  🙂  There are a few details that might help if you go to run an event at Devil’s Lake.

1) Take a fuel/water belt. You’ll be going thru A LOT of water. The aid stations are well stocked but usually 4-5 miles apart. In fact, due to the terrain, I’m amazed they had as many stations as they did.
2) Wear trail shoes if you have them, buy them if you don’t own any. The purpose of trail shoes is to protect your feet. They have a foot and toe plate made out of a tougher/stronger material. I stubbed my toe, on unseen roots/rocks, 4 times and went flying. fortunately, I didn’t break any toes and I managed to land “on my feet” each time. This isn’t normal so I’m thankful to come out unscathed. Plus I could feel the rocks under my feet thru my road shoes. Not the most pleasant thing. I would have loved to have my trail shoes.
3) Gaiters are optional. Not necessary in my opinion. We weren’t kicking up a lot of dirt or debris but that could be due to our pedestrian pace. If you’re a mover and a shaker, wear your gaiters.
4) Compression works!  I strongly encourage the use of either compression sleeves or socks for this event. Firstly, it will keep the blood flowing in your muscles when the blood wants to leave the legs and go directly to the lungs, as you are clawing your way up the hills!!!  Secondly, the compression socks will protect your legs against the tall grasses/weeds and/or branches that are pushing onto the trail. There are several sections that are pretty grown up. I personally don’t want my bare legs touching a lot of weeds/grasses/trees with which I’m not familiar. It would be one giant itch fest for me.
5) Bug spray is your friend. Use it. Reapply. And keep your mouth shut if possible. It’s SUPER buggy and you’ll be lucky if you only eat a couple of bugs.
6) Pray for an overcast/cloudy day. We got lucky. I hope you do too!  We heard some stories about previous years which were a smoldering hot.  It was 80 degrees for us and overcast. Super muggy and buggy.
7) Low light on the trails will be an issue. If you want to protect your eyes from the bugs, use photochromic sunglasses (I prefer Ryders Eyewear) or lenses with low tint.
8) Have fun. If you aren’t going to win there is really no reason to press down the hills and risk your life. Ego is one thing. Safety is another. I highly recommend running this one “for fun”.  It took me over 7.5 hours to run/walk/hike this marathon and my quads & stabilizer muscles have been shredded all week. It’s a rough one and well, I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim and this was way tougher and much more technical.  I’ve run/walked/hiked a lot of trails.  I’m not an “expert” but I’m experienced.  I’m not trying to hype it, just be honest.  It’s going to be tough.  If you don’t believe me, check out the warning on the BACK of the race shirt.  Swag below, back of the shirt says, “Dances with Dirt 2014 …. I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death”.  Truth.  But at least the medal is a bottle opener so you can drink lots of brews if you survive.  🙂devlils lake_swag_backGreat race. Amazing job to whoever marked the trails because we never had any doubt that we were headed the right way. Huge shout out to the volunteers who hiked in the aid stations and their supplies. Thanks to the fastie trail runners who didn’t run Julie and I over as we were hiking our way thru the rough sections. And of course a special thanks to Julie for “getting in the car” to go run her VERY FIRST trail event ever …… with a mere 24 hours for advance notice. Girl, I owe you. Thanks to Dawn for awaiting our finish and making sure we survived before she left to continue her family trip. Dawn, Me & Julie at the finish!

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**Wisconsin Is In The Books {Under Unforgettable}  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **